Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law

noun
the facetious proposition that if something can go wrong, it will.
Also called Murphy's First Law.


Origin:
Americanism; after a fictitious Murphy, allegedly the name of a bungling mechanic in U.S. Navy educational cartoons of the 1950s

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World English Dictionary
Murphy's law
 
n
informal another term for Sod's law
 
[C20: of uncertain origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

Murphy's law
1958, used of various pessimistic aphorisms. If there ever was a real Murphy his identity is lost to history. Said to be military originally, and probably pre-dates the earliest printed example (the 1958 citation calls it "an old military maxim").
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

Murphy's Law definition


A rule that states, “If something can go wrong, it will.” An addition to this law reads, “and usually at the worst time.” The identity of “Murphy” is unknown, but the saying was first used during the 1940s and may have originated with members of the armed forces in World War II.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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FOLDOC
Computing Dictionary

Murphy's Law definition

humour
(Or "Sod's Law") The correct, *original* Murphy's Law reads: "If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it." This is a principle of defensive design, cited here because it is usually given in mutant forms less descriptive of the challenges of design for lusers. For example, you don't make a two-pin plug symmetrical and then label it "THIS WAY UP"; if it matters which way it is plugged in, then you make the design asymmetrical (see also the anecdote under magic smoke).
Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of the engineers on the rocket-sled experiments that were done by the US Air Force in 1949 to test human acceleration tolerances (USAF project MX981). One experiment involved a set of 16 accelerometers mounted to different parts of the subject's body. There were two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount, and somebody methodically installed all 16 the wrong way around. Murphy then made the original form of his pronouncement, which the test subject (Major John Paul Stapp) quoted at a news conference a few days later.
Within months "Murphy's Law' had spread to various technical cultures connected to aerospace engineering. Before too many years had gone by variants had passed into the popular imagination, changing as they went. Most of these are variants on "Anything that can go wrong, will"; this is sometimes referred to as Finagle's Law. The memetic drift apparent in these mutants clearly demonstrates Murphy's Law acting on itself!
[Jargon File]
(1998-02-14)
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

Murphy's law

If anything can go wrong, it will, as in We may think we've covered all the details for the benefit, but remember Murphy's law. The identity of Murphy, if ever a real person, is unknown. Some think it alludes to (but was not invented by) a feckless Irishman named Murphy. [c. 1940]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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